Hammer Could Pound the Ball! 06 Apr 12

Michael Cuddyer and his wife Claudia have won many awards for their community work.

Lately I’ve had several Twins fans errantly ask me, “What about this guy we got for Cuddyer? Is he any good?” They are referring to Josh Willingham.

 

First of all, we didn’t trade Cuddyer. He left of his own free will for a change of scenery, and for money he felt was adequate to compensate him for his talent.

Michael is a great ballplayer, he’ll do anything he is asked, and he is a great person and family man. He has won many awards for his charity work, he’s a great spokesman to the media, and a great clubhouse guy, too. He gave Minnesota the best years of his career. But this is 21st century pro baseball, and guys don’t stay put too long. Compounding the situation was last year’s disastrous season. And money is always a factor in one’s decision to leave, with the Twins offering Michael a contract that was actually a cut in pay. He told me he’d love to play out East, where he could have easy access to his home in Virginia. But when it got down to the bottom line, he took the inconvenience of a four-hour flight home to be well compensated in a town that wants him there. He’s going to be a great addition to the Rockies and to the City of Denver.

In 2008 when the Twins held a ground breaking ceremony for Target Field, Kent Hrbek spontaneously cracked open a beer, and announced he is the first person to drink a beer at Target Field.

With Cuddyer gone, the Twins needed an outfielder, so they signed Josh Willingham, a free agent who hit 29 home runs for the A’s last year. After playing part of the spring in right, it was decided he’ll be the Twins everyday left fielder. He has made some nice grabs, but has also played a few fly balls awkwardly. That could be the result of trying to learn to play in right, and then readjusting to his old position in left. But it was only spring, and those games are played to work the bugs out. I recently caught up with Josh, and he said, “Hopefully I got all of the cobwebs out in spring training.” I asked him what his thoughts were about playing in Minnesota. “I have good thoughts! Obviously I chose Minnesota. The free agency process can be a long one, so I took this opportunity and I feel I’ve made a good decision. I played in a college wooden-bat league in Minnesota, so I’m very familiar with the Twin Cities.”

 

I told him even though it’s not fair; fans might compare him to Cuddyer; because of all the charitable work Michael was involved in, the community got to know him personally. Josh said: “That’s something my wife (Ginger) and I take great pride in, too. We get involved in the community, and we have a Willingham Foundation back home (Florence, Alabama). Obviously Cuddyer meant a lot to this organization; he played here his whole career. But I feel we’ll get involved in the Twin Cities community. Our foundation was started to help needy children. Then last year the tornadoes ripped through Alabama in April, and the foundation helped out, but it’s mostly geared towards kids.”

As Target Field was being built, Kent Hrbek would regularly get a first hand look of the progress. Now there will be a statue at the park to honor him.

Josh Willingham’s nickname from the bench is “The Hammer”. Let’s hope he can hammer out 29 home runs for the Twins in 2012!

 

New Food at the Park

When visiting the Iron Range, I’ve been told that the place to eat has always been Valentini’s Supper Club. At Target Field this year, you’ll be able to get a Valentini’s Mega Meatball. It’s a big meatball stuffed with cheese and covered in red sauce.

Garlic Fries – sold in many other ball parks – will also join the bill of fare at Target Field. I have never eaten them, but they sure make the concourse smell great.

There is also a new potato bar offering sweet potatoes, too. We now can buy deep fried pickle chips, Buffalo Chicken Mac and

Michael Cuddyer took pride in his many Twin City charity events, especially his celebrity waiter dinner.

Cheese, Bacon Sloppy Joe, Mini Donuts from SA, Leeann Chin chicken or veggie stir fry, and Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls right at the park.

 

But what excites me most is the Twins’ commitment to local craft beers. Brews from Surly, Fulton, Summit, Finnegan’s, Cold Spring, and Schell’s are now available at various locations throughout Target Field. They have also formed a partnership with locally owned 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey and feature a cocktail called the “Big Ginger”. It is made with 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, ginger ale, and lemon lime.

I know I will be leaving the ball park 10 pounds heavier, and my wallet will be 10 pounds lighter!

Hrbek Immortalized by Twins

Josh Willingham gets ready to hammer one out!

Besides starring in some new crazy commercials for the Twins and having a Target Field pub named after him since the park opened, the former Twins star first baseman will now have a bronze statue of his likeness on Target Plaza. The Twins have announced they will unveil the statue during a ceremony on the Plaza preceding the Saturday, April 14th game against Texas at Target Field.

 

Photos and Story by Gordy Jones